Article: A Pragmatics of Political Judgment: Hobbes and Spinoza

Oliver Feltham: ‘A Pragmatics of Political Judgment: Hobbes and Spinoza’, Philosophy Today, 60, 1 (2016).

Abstract: The question of political judgement is usually addressed within a normative or epistemological framework. In contrast in this paper the approach is that of a pragmatics of judgement. The leading questions are what does political judgement do and how does it operate? This enquiry, carried out through an examination of political judgement in Thomas Hobbes and Baruch Spinoza, is shown to ineluctably lead to an ontology of action. These philosophers’ contrasting ontologies give rise to two different frameworks for political judgement whose avatars are still with us today: Hobbesian functionalism and Spinozist affirmationism. Finally these competing frameworks of judgement are put to the test of resolving—or at least treating—the very problem that gave rise to them in the first place in Hobbes and Spinoza’s philosophies, the problem of political conflict. The singularity of Spinoza’s affirmationist framework for judgement is identified as its capacity to pose the reflexive question of who the subject of judgement is for the object of judgement in the actual action of judgement. The hypothesis is that this question opens a way for both subject and object of judgement to increase their power to act and think.

Book: Homer and the Question of Strife from Erasmus to Hobbes

Jessica Wolfe, Homer and the Question of Strife from Erasmus to Hobbes (University of Toronto Press, 2015)

About this Book: From antiquity through the Renaissance, Homer’s epic poems – the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the various mock-epics incorrectly ascribed to him – served as a lens through which readers, translators, and writers interpreted contemporary conflicts. They looked to Homer for wisdom about the danger and the value of strife, embracing his works as a mythographic shorthand with which to describe and interpret the era’s intellectual, political, and theological struggles.

Homer and the Question of Strife from Erasmus to Hobbes elegantly exposes the ways in which writers and thinkers as varied as Erasmus, Rabelais, Spenser, Milton, and Hobbes presented Homer as a great champion of conflict or its most eloquent critic. Jessica Wolfe weaves together an exceptional range of sources, including manuscript commentaries, early modern marginalia, philosophical and political treatises, and the visual arts. Wolfe’s transnational and multilingual study is a landmark work in the study of classical reception that has a great deal to offer to anyone examining the literary, political, and intellectual life of early modern Europe.